Durex condoms’ social media strategy goes wrong

Jun 5, 2013
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Durex probably thought it had hit upon a brilliant social media campaign for a new emergency condom delivery service — at least until the campaign spiraled into odd territory.



The condom maker asked Facebook (FB -2.64%) fans to vote on which city should receive the service, called SOS Condoms, which sends rush delivery of condoms to couples in need, Bloomberg reports.

Unfortunately, the vote was apparently seized upon by Internet pranksters, who gave the most votes to Batman — as in the conservative Muslim province in Turkey, not the superhero. (No doubt the shared name helped win many of the votes.)

Meanwhile, some locals aren’t too happy about the campaign. “I’m Kurdish, and I know how we are, so this is impossible. Our culture is religious,” Abdurrahman Temelli, a sustainable development consultant from a neighboring city, told Bloomberg.

But for Reckitt Benckiser Group (RGPBF), which owns Durex, the campaign is just another example of how marketers sometimes fail to predict the ways social media campaigns can go awry. In the condom case, pranksters hijacked the campaign, but some efforts to reach out to consumers have turned out much, much worse.

Last year, McDonald’s (MCD -1.98%) pushed Twitter users to write about fond experiences at the restaurant under the hashtag #McDStories. Instead, consumers wrote gems such as, “Ordered a McDouble, something in the damn thing chipped my molar.” The restaurant chain shut down the campaign just a few hours later.

Then there was the NRA’s American Rifleman, which tweeted, “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?” the day of the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting. Sample reply, “Yeah, just gonna mourn a bit. And you?”

Durex could have avoided the whole mess if it had offered a multiple-choice response rather than allowing Internet jokers to write in any city they wanted.

As for SOS Condoms, the service won’t be offered in Batman or anywhere else, a Durex spokeswoman told Bloomberg. She added that the condom maker’s social media efforts are moving “on to a new sphere.”


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